You may have heard the saying when you enter a yoga class, you should leave your ego at the door. It may sound like a cliche, but there is a lot of truth to the idea behind it. There are numerous obstacles to progress in yoga that ego plays a role in maintaining. Let’s take a look at how the ego interacts with yoga.
A False Sense of Self
While it is important to have a sense of our true self, the ego, all too often, distorts that image. When beginning something new, such as yoga, it is not unusual for there to be voices of self doubt. We think we are not good enough to do something or do not know enough to be able to do it well. This self doubt even comes to experienced yogis. They may doubt whether they can do a particular advanced pose, thinking they will fall, for example, or lack sufficient strength or flexibility.
At the other end of the scale, pride can give us a false sense of superiority. We may think we already know a particular pose and do not need to learn more. While self doubt stops us from exploring or learning something new, pride shuts the door on further and deeper understanding, something that is always available in yoga.
Letting Go of Ego
The path of yoga provides ways to overcome obstacles of the mind. The simplest of these is to pay attention. Listen to the teacher’s instructions; observe each action that takes place in the body. This keeps the mind focused on the present moment. In the present, there is no doubt or pride. The focused mind is not distracted by other thoughts.
To carry this a step further, when you are trying a new or challenging yoga pose, do not think about what might happen or what you already know, focus on the actions and steps needed to put you in that position. This again puts the mind in the present, directed away from doubt and open to further understanding. These techniques are simple in concept, but, of course, not always easy to achieve!
You can enhance these efforts by exploring the other limbs of yoga. Along with working on mental focus while practicing yoga asanas, read about the yamas and niyamas to help understand the mind’s tendencies and other aspects of the self. Learn pranayama, regulation of the breath, as another way to bring attention to the present.
Like every other part of yoga, quieting the ego and the voices in our head takes practice. It is all part of staying in the moment, which helps us uncover the ego that is the true self.